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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: February 28, 2020
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS.
“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Colossians 1:27-29)
If Paul had a Purpose Statement it would resemble the Bible passage above because it answers the question, “Why his ministry existed.”
The words, “Whom we preach” mean Paul’s mission had a focus - Jesus Christ. Paul’s preaching wasn’t focused inward on himself or on his ability to keep his audience entertained; these are common practices today. Paul’s ministry was focused on the Person and the finished work of Christ Jesus.
The words, “warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom” mean Paul’s mission had a method. In his preaching he warned, he taught, and he used all wisdom in doing it. You might say in his preaching he warned the lost sinner, taught Believers, and did it all with wisdom.
The words, “every man” (repeated x3) mean Paul’s mission had an audience – everyone. Paul preached the mystery to the old and the young, rich and poor, slave and free, Greek or Jew, man or woman, the educated and the uneducated because God’s free gift of grace is meant for
Perfection must be the work of God and not of man. Man’s work was the law. Under that perfect work man was an absolute failure: “The law made nothing perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did” (Hebrews 7:16.) Did what? Made something perfect. What better hope can make a lost imperfect sinner perfect in the sight of God? Here’s that better hope:
“By the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once-forall; and by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified…” (Hebrews 10:10-14).
Paul “labored, striving, according to his (God’s) working, which worketh in me mightily.” In Koine Greek striving means “agonize” (like a wrestler in the heat of competition). Paul struggled as God’s servant among the Gentiles, but he wanted the Colossian saints to know it was not by his own strength but by the power only God can give. Compare Colossians 1:29 with 1 Corinthians 15:10 below
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Please open your Bible at Colossians 2:1-3.
“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you (Colossians), and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
The apostle Paul, in Colossians 1, has been talking about the distinctiveness of his great message and ministry among the Gentles over and above that which the Spirit-filled twelve were taught and proclaimed on the day of Pentecost (Galatians 2:1-10).
In verse 1:24 we learned the ministry which God had called Saul/Paul was a ministry that would involve conflict and suffering (Acts 9:15-16). In this chapter we will see how our apostle Paul strived and suffered to make the blessed message of the mystery known “to every creature under heaven” and to keep it pure, i.e., untainted.
“For I would that ye knew” (2:1a) – whenever Paul used this phrase it served to highlight or direct the attention of the reader to something of great importance. Here Paul wanted these Believers to fully understand the “great conflict” he had for the saints at Colosse, Laodicea, and all those he had never met personally face-to-face.
“…what great conflict I have for you (Colossians), and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;” (2:1).
Contrary to some people’s opinion, Paul was not conflicted, that is, having or showing confused and mutually inconsistent emotions, he suffered “conflict” which means: strife, or contention. This word refers to the anxious care, the mental conflict, the earnest concern which he had for the Believers in Colosse, those nearby in Laodicea, and all those he had not met (2 Corinthians 11:28). Why? These saints, in Christ, were being exposed to heretical teachings from Judaizing Christians and Pagan philosophies. So then, in verse 2:1 Paul used the word “conflict” to mean, and I’m paraphrasing, anxious care, the mental conflict, the earnest concern which he had in their behalf, in view of the dangers to which they were exposed from Judaizing Christians and Pagan philosophy.
I reiterate the great conflict Paul speaks of was not with himself or within himself but with those who rejected the preaching of the mystery, stood in opposition to the truth, and persecuted him for preaching it. The bottom line is Paul wanted the Colossians, and others, to know he is presently engaged in a struggle for them all; and it’s no little struggle. He's imprisoned in Rome and awaiting trial before the Roman Emperor Nero. His very life is on the line. So out of that great conflict comes this much needed letter to the Colossians. These folks and others in that region were benefitting from his ministry despite the persecution and trials Paul was suffering.
“…and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face (in the Greek language this means to be personally acquainted with someone) in the flesh; Paul had a great concern for every church and every member of Body of Christ, but his remark here specifically references all those in the neighborhood of the church at Colosse. However, as we read on we note this great concern included the Believers at Laodicea and all others in the region, even though Paul was not personally acquainted with them. For the sake of every Believer in and about Colosse and that the truth of the gospel might continue with them (untainted) Paul speaks of this great conflict he had for them.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love,”
It would be a wonderful thing indeed to see all the Christian churches, all those who profess the name of Christ and look to Him alone for salvation; wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to see them all comforted (encouraged) and knit together in love? As wonderful as that might be, that is not enough. Paul goes on to pray these Believer’s might be built up in the truth of God re: “the revelation of the mystery” and “the full assurance of understanding:”
“and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” (2:2b).
Paul labored, striving, and endured great conflict so the Colossians and all those who had not yet seen his face in the flesh might be comforted, i.e. encouraged and built up in the truth of the mystery, having, “the full assurance of understanding.”
How can Believer’s experience “the full assurance of understanding?” To attain “the full assurance of understanding” (in the dispensation of grace) God does not ask us to do something, He asked us to understand something. What’s more, God does not leave us wondering about what it is we must understand, for Paul goes on to talk about, “the (knowledge) acknowledgement of the mystery” (2:2).
Here Paul specifically directed the reader’s attention to full understanding or “the acknowledgement” of “the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” Said differently, and I’m paraphrasing, “the full, or thorough knowledge of the mystery of God’s grace.” Once again, Paul emphasizes the sufficiency of Christ, the distinctiveness of his ministry, and his gospel: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,” (Ephesians 3:1-3).
This passage of Scripture deals with the all sufficiency of the finished work of Christ: namely, what it has done for the Believer, what it makes of him or her; how it reconciles them to God in one body; and baptizes them, by the Spirit of God, into Christ Jesus making every true Believer a member of His Body; and how God has given us a position in the heavenlies in Christ, forever, along with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. (See Ephesians 1:1-14)
Now perhaps you are beginning to understand why Paul endured such great conflict, suffering, laboring and striving for the Colossians (and every member of the Body of Christ); it was that they might know this great mystery of God which is Christ, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3).
Some of you might know something about the gas shortage of the 1970’s. Many people believe there was no shortage of oil or oil refineries to produce said gasoline. What they believe is the interrupted flow of oil and gasoline was man-made meant to drive up prices on these commodities. While we do not know if this is true or sheer speculation, we do know if you’re suffering from a shortage of “assurance,” it’s a man-made shortage, caused by men (perhaps well-meaning men) who taught you God’s Word without using right division of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). But I trust the information that’s provided here will encourage (comfort) you and help you grow in grace, and in the “understanding” of the Word of God, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, “to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God…”
The mystery centers in Christ and is God’s plan of redemption and reconciliation for all through the Person and work of His beloved Son. We understand when we have a thorough knowledge of Christ, and the mystery, we have everything necessary for life and godliness. We do not need to search for knowledge or truth elsewhere. A few lessons back we learned unless knowledge affects the Believer’s way of living, it’s worthless. But the more knowledge you gain of Christ, and put to work in your life, the more like Him you’ll become. It’s been said, we are what we eat, physically. Paul wants the Colossians to know they are what they believe, spiritually. Where your heart goes you mind soon follows. So what you read and what you listen to matters. The idea here is Paul wants the Colossians to be confident (steadfast) and rest in the truth of God’s Word.
Knowing the truth about Christ does something else for the Believer. That knowledge of truth about Christ and the mystery brings full assurance and peace, i.e., rest.
“In whom (Christ Jesus) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
The overall focus of Colossians is all is Christ and everything is in Christ. Christ is the One: "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." I’m sure most of you know a thesaurus is a treasury of words stored up to compare with one another. God begins to give a catalogue of treasures at salvation, and they continue throughout the Believer’s experience until and including their death. The entire plan of God revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ. When we have a thorough knowledge of Christ, we have everything we need, because all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Him. All means all and Paul is emphasizing the fact this is without exception. So, Paul’s saying, and I’m paraphrasing, "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, without exception, are hid in Him."
Paul wants the Colossian Church to acquire full knowledge re: what God has said concerning the age-old secret known as the mystery. The true Believer is never done with this. Why? It’s impossible to exhaust the knowledge of God. So this begs the questions do you have a full knowledge of the Scriptures concerning the Person and work of Christ Jesus in this dispensation, and if so, are you able to recognize false teaching when you hear it or see it?
Those who acknowledge the mystery Paul mentioned in (2:2) ought to know and understand God has an earthly people (Israel) and a heavenly people (the Body of Christ).
God the Father kept the secret of the mystery for about 4000 years (Proverbs 25:2) in the “unsearchable” heart of the King of kings, “the heaven for height, and the earth for depth” (25:3). Thus Paul speaks of “the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God,” and declares “how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33).
In Romans 11:25 Paul said he wants the church at Rome to understand the mystery of Israel’s blindness and how God’s plan to rule His earthly people would undergo a postponement that has now lasted 2,000 years. But now, when he speaks of the mystery in Ephesians 3, he prays that the saints in Ephesus might understand the “depth and height” of it” (3:18). That is, he is praying they might also understand God has a plan to rule His heavenly people, the Body of Christ (3:1-17), in “the heaven for height.” Thus, in God’s plan to rule His people Israel on earth we find some of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and in His plan to rule His heavenly people, the Body of Christ, in the heavens, we also find some of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, but unless we acknowledge both as true, and rightly divide the Scriptures, we do not understand “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that are hid in Him.
The very thing Paul suffered to preach and preserve, i.e., “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27) which includes “the revelation of the mystery” (Romans 16:25) is the very thing the modern churches have diluted and polluted. I’m saying if you attend the church services of the Southern Baptists, the Pentecostals, and the Seventh Day Adventists on the same day, in no particular order, you are bound to hear three different interpretations of God’s Word. Ergo, far too many Christians are receiving the polluted and water-downed version of the Bible, therefore, they do not have full knowledge of Christ, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
“And this I say, lest any man should beguile (deceive) you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Paul’s defense of and the preaching of the gospel of grace brought persecution and suffering to his life. Bear in mind Satan knows Jesus and Paul and his gospel for that matter (Acts 19:15; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4) and he hates all three. The devil means to distort and confuse the message of the mystery and based on what I’m hearing and seeing, he is experiencing much success. But when the truth of God is preached unaltered and with clarity Satan is not a happy camper…
“And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (2:4).
At the risk of sounding forthright, sound teaching originates with God and false teaching originates with men. If you’re not aware of what the Bible is telling you in Romans thru Philemon, it’s not the fault of God. This is on you my friends. Paul pleaded with the Corinthian and Ephesian Believers, and elsewhere, not to continue as babes in Christ, but to grow up, spiritually, to become men and women of God; people He can use for His own glory and for the good of others. God has always used men and women to accomplish His purposes. He could use angels, but instead has chosen to use Believers as His servants. In fact, one of the reasons God saved us is for the purpose of serving Him (Romans 12:1-2). Paul revealed the following truth to the saints at Ephesus, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (2:10).
Horses were created to be ridden, cars were created to be driven, and Believers were created to serve their Saviour. If you’re saved, this is the mindset you are to put on daily for Paul wrote: “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who…made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:5-10). Every Believer needs to cultivate the attitude and practice of being a servant of the Lord, i.e., we all need to be ministry-minded (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
I consider it strange that many Christians are so naïve, for the Scriptures speak of religious people who, “by good words, and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18b). In 2 Corinthians 11:13 they read of “false apostles (prophets), deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” In Galatians 2:4, our apostle Paul writes of “false brethren,” “unawares brought in, who came in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.” In Ephesians 4:14 Paul pleads, “…we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness (same word is used to describe Satan’s character in Genesis 3:1), whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Then in Ephesians 5:6, Paul speaks of those who would “deceive you with vain words,” and so on it goes, but I think you are getting the idea. False teaching is alive and well in the churches and Satan is pleased.
Human nature does not change. It is still fallen and bad, sometimes, very bad, which is why it requires regeneration: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:4-5; Ephesians 4:21-24).
That’s why we need to be saved by the finished work of Christ Jesus. And let us not be so naïve as to think that just because a man in his Sunday best stands in the pulpit, he must be preaching the truths of God. This might not be the case, and based on my own personal experience, it’s rarely the case.
(To be continued)
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